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VMs: Re: 1478 Assassination Solved
I heard Prof. Simonetta interviewed, the other night, on CBC radio's program
"As it Happens." If anyone is interested, then I'll track down either a
transcript or an audio file. Regards, Bill.
["...by deciphering an encrypted letter that he discovered in a private
archive in Urbino, Marcello Simonetta, a professor of Italian history and
literature, shows that the mercenary Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino,
orchestrated the coup."]
The New York Times
March 6, 2004
1478 Assassination Solved. The Humanist Did It.
By FELICIA R. LEE
On April 26, 1478, Lorenzo de' Medici (who escaped) and his brother
Giuliano (who died) were repeatedly attacked with
knives by a gang of men who invaded the Duomo cathedral in Florence
during a high Mass. It was part of a plot against
the powerful Medici family, de facto rulers in the Florentine republic for
hundreds of years. Now a Wesleyan University scholar
says he has cracked the 500-year-old case with the help of a recently
discovered coded letter.
For hundreds of years historians have known the plot was largely engineered
by Francesco de Pazzi, from a rival family of
bankers, with an assist from Pope Sixtus IV, who sought power for his nephew.
But by deciphering an encrypted letter that he
discovered in a private archive in Urbino, Marcello Simonetta, a professor of
Italian history and literature, shows that the
mercenary Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino, orchestrated the coup.
Notably the duke has gone down through history as a humanist, without any
connection to the conspiracy.
Mr. Simonetta's findings have been published in The Archivo Storico Italiano,
the oldest Italian historical journal, and in his new
book, "The Secret Renaissance: The World of the Secretary From Petrarch to
Machiavelli" (Franco Angeli, 2004).
"This was a major plot in Renaissance history," Mr. Simonetta said in an
interview. "The fact that Lorenzo survived changed
Italian history. His son became Pope Leo X. The posthumous son of Giuliano
became Pope Clement VII. Federico da
Montefeltro was known as one of the most refined men of the Renaissance."
"It's very, very exciting," Mr. Simonetta said of his successful efforts to
crack the code of the three-page letter, sent by the duke
to his ambassadors in Rome two months before the coup attempt.
The letter, Mr. Simonetta said, unveils the duke's personal insistence on
getting rid of the Medici brothers, discusses his military
contribution to the plot (550 soldiers and 50 knights) and expresses
gratitude for the pope's gift to the duke's son Guidubaldo, a
golden chain that represented legitimization of the Montefeltro dynasty under
Mr. Simonetta's discovery is highly significant to Renaissance scholars, said
Melissa M. Bullard, a professor of history at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mercenary captains like
Montefeltro, she said, always posed a threat to the state or
ruler who hired them, at at time of constant jockeying for position among
"Had the Pazzi taken over, the course of Florentine history and the course of
northern Italy would have been altered," said
Ronald Witt, a professor of history at Duke University. "There probably would
have been much greater instability. The fact that
the Medici stayed meant there was continuity in the leadership."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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